Cranford‘s delightfully absurd Miss Pole (an unmarried elderly woman who had hardly ever talked to a man) said,

“My father was a man. I think I understand the sex.”

Well, as a mom of 7 boys, 15 years in, I think I actually *do* understand more about raising boys (at least *little* boys) than the average Joe.


5 big boys



So, in a spirit of helping out my fellow sisters around the world, let me offer the following observations:

#1- Keep a lot of bandaids on hand.

#2- If at all possible, have a spot in your yard where digging is permitted.

#3- Keep them busy with useful tasks.

Some ideas: Lightbulb-changing; bathroom trash to the main trash; doorknob screw-tightening; using baby wipes to wipe stains off the floor under the dining table; WD-40 on rusty bike chains.

#4- Make them look you in the eye when you talk to them.

This is ESPECIALLY true when correcting them, but it’s a good principle in general. Getting 2 & 3 year old boys to look you in the eye (and not look away), before you correct and discipline them, is more than half the battle.

#5- Your boys want to feel competent, and to earn your respect.

Look for ways to help them grow in depth of confidence in skills, and let them know when you see them working hard and doing something well.

6- Don’t let them get away with not doing any inside housework.

Maybe I’m saying this because I’m a mom of only 1 girl, and we would DIIIIIIIIIIE under a pile of laundry and dishes if my sons never did these chores. But I hope I would say this no matter the composition of our family: don’t put all the housework on the shoulders of yourself and your daughter(s). Later, even if your delightful-little-genius-man of a son is a CEO of a major corporation and never again does his own laundry or dishes, it will be really good for him TO HAVE DONE laundry or dishes, regularly, and appreciate the time and work involved in these activities that support every person’s daily life.

#7- Wrestling, tickling, and snuggling on the floor is a great wintertime energy-user-upper.

#8- When they complain about work, do not ever let them off the hook.

Whatever your solution (talking them through it, connecting their work to the benefits of the family, or — as we do– adding more work to their plate when they complain), do not let them off the hook. Lamentations 3:27 says “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” Let it be a major aim of your parenting, that you will teach this little man to be a diligent worker, and bear the load of hard work, while he is young.

#9- Let not thine heart hold out hope for jeans without holes in the knees.

#10- Not being able to sit still now doesn’t mean he never will. It means he’s a boy.

Even great men like Thomas Jefferson wrote (or dictated!) great documents like the Declaration of Independence while pacing back and forth.

#11- That said, teach him how to sit still sometimes.

From 3 years old onward, our sons sit through a hour-long church service, twice-each-Sunday. Yes sometimes they wiggle, and yes, the 3 year old definitely needs to be trained to do it. But it’s worth it to (sometimes… not all day, er’day) teach them to sit still. Self-control is a major battle in the life of a young man. It’s the one thing the Bible specifically tells us to”urge” young men to be.

#12- Silly noises can help them warm up to things like face-wiping after meals, or nose-wiping when sick.

#13- Learn how to give basic boy haircuts.

You’ll save yourself a heap of money over the long haul. Especially if you have 7 of them. 🙂

#14- Teach him to speak up; never allow him to mumble.

Of course, this assumes that he’s speaking clearly at other times. If your child is capable of loudly asking for the ice cream flavor he wants, or screaming for the blue block, he can apologize– or say “hello” to the older woman at church who greets him, or say any number of things which he doesn’t on his own wish to say– loud and clear.

#15- Do not ever talk poorly about his father.

If you have something negative to say, say it to the Lord or say it directly to your husband. Your son has a deep need to respect and learn from his dad. It will already be hard enough, given the fact that every human father is human. Don’t make it harder.

#16- Take opportunities to familiarize him with the things our culture sees as “man things.”

(And even though our culture loves to lecture about gender and sex, blah blah blah, there are still clearly things that our culture expects women to know, and expects men to know. This hasn’t changed.)

The more things you can expose him to– concepts and tasks that average men in his culture like to know about– the more equipped he will be to take on the tasks of manhood in the time and place where he is planted.

Some ideas for skills to acquire:

  • start a fire
  • get a grill going,
  • fill a car up with gas,
  • roofing,
  • gun safety basics,
  • lawn mowing & weed eating,
  • home maintenance like changing the air filter,
  • check the oil and other gauges on a car,
  • basics about pocket knives,
  • hail a taxi,
  • read a topographical map,
  • put out baits for home pest control,
  • clean a toilet,
  • speak to a manager about a problem in a polite but firm way,
  • catch a football,
  • climb a ladder & walk safely on a roof,
  • replace a computer battery, etc.

These are just ideas, but project him forward as a man, and consider, what situations might he be in, as a man, and want to know at least a basic familiarity with a topic so that he doesn’t look or feel like a doofus. You can help him then, by familiarizing him with those things now every time there’s an opportunity.

#17- It’s perfectly normal for your son to need painful discipline to be motivated to change.

This is very, very common. It may be a much different “feel” than the way discipline felt with your daughter(s). This does not mean abuse them. (In fact, if you’re close to the edge of your self-control, or wondering if you are abusive, DO NOT SPANK.) If you spank, test your spankings on your own leg. Your spankings really should hurt, sting, smart… make you feel it. It should be painful enough to truly act as a deterrent against his future foolishness.

This is the basic principle of Hebrews 12 discipline– being consistently trained by pain, by invested and loving parents, yields peace and leads to righteousness. The vast majority of situations where someone says, “he doesn’t respond to spankings”, can be solved by two things: painful-enough discipline, and consistency. (Check out the recent Mom On Purpose podcast about that, HERE!)

#18- If you happen to have an extra-wiggly boy toddler around the same time that you have a newborn, this gate/playyard might just change your life.

#19- The older they get, the more they need to take on an independent responsibility for their own work, and receive discipline from their father (not you, Mama!).

This will be difficult if you (mom) have been overseeing everything. It may take purposefulness on your part, but it’s worth it– for him and for you. For us this last year, that has looked like my husband taking over most of the responsibility for overseeing the schoolwork of our 14 year old. Aside from small daily rebukes/correction, my husband does most of the discipline and corrective talks with our sons once they’re about 10/11 and up.

#20- It’s OK if it takes a while for him to learn to read.

The average age (so far) for our boys to learn to read is 7. Then they go on to read things like Lord of the Rings, Wayside School, Pilgrim’s Progress, Roald Dahl, Heaven for Kids, and books about economics and architecture.

They really will be OK if they don’t read “early;” many boys don’t. This does not necessarily mean he has a learning disability. It might just mean he’s a boy, developing physically and in other areas first, before he moves to that particular skill.

#21- Emotional self-control CAN be learned.

Crying doesn’t make him a sissy, but it will be a deterrent in his life if you don’t teach him how to control himself.

If your son has trouble controlling his emotions, give him physical ways he can work to master his responses. Some that work for our boys are: folding hands, washing the face off with cold water, doing a physically-demanding chore, taking three slow & deep breaths, standing with their feet and hands backed against a wall, and going for a run around the block.

#22- Play that includes things with wheels, explosions, funny sounds, or anything you can build or connect, always beats play that does not include these things.

#23- You are the primary teacher for how he should treat women.

Even if/when you are stronger than him, do not let him hit or be rough toward you. Teach him to be gentle and servant-hearted toward you. This is one way you can bless his future wife.

#24- Between the ages of 4-12, your son will probably do a number of things that make absolutely no sense to you.

Asking “why” (as in, on Sunday morning before church, asking: “why did you stash two plastic disposable forks in the waistband of your suit pants?”) will yield no reasonable answer. At this point, instead of beating your head against a wall and losing your mind, I’ve found it best to stop my quest for an answer and just accept that sometimes they do things that make no sense.

#25- Rubbing or scratching their backs while you talk might just help them to open up their heart and soul to you.



What would you add? What’s your TOP tip for moms of boys? 

23 Comments on 25 Tips for Moms of Boys

  1. Thanks for this post! I loved it! With having 4 girls and only 2 boys and being a woman myself, I feel like I could always use more advice in parenting the boys. ? And thank you for #17, this has been something I have wondered for awhile now. In our home, the girls receive discipline so much different than the boys, and I wondered if it was just me or a real thing. ?

  2. Is it reasonable to expect my 19 month old boy to sit (with training) for 30 minutes at a library storytime or similar setting? If so, how would you do that training?

    I would love to see a similar list for girls!

    • 30 minutes is a long time for that age to give focused attention. I think he could probably do it, yes, but I would *NOT* expect for it to be perfectly done, still-as-a-statue, etc. It would be up/down, reminding, sitting in lap, etc., finger to lips, helping them keep interest, possibly standing at the back, pointing out things and whispering in his ear to make connections for him (see the big blue bird on that page?), etc.

  3. Yep….. you are correct…. i have no girls…. even the cat is male…. we have a digging spot in the yard, ninja warrior course un the basement, 3 or 4 boxes of bandaids in the medicine bin, wrestling matches in the living room and well…. you know.? its a boy thing, best just to roll with it.?

  4. I would add: Some boys are cautious. Learn to recognize that and do not make fun of them or allow siblings to do so. These personalities need to know what is coming off before they are comfortable with new activities. When they are ready, they will attempt them. That is not fearfulness and should not be mocked.

  5. Any advice for getting through a trip to the grocery store? I have 3 boys 7 & under, and the youngest rides in the cart while the older two walk. I feel like I am constantly saying don’t touch that, come back here, stop messing with your brother, etc. If I have something to get that they can reach I have them help, but most of the time I’m just trying to get through it and pay attention to my list so I don’t forget anything. Some trips it is so difficult and I feel so defeated by the end! I offer warnings during the trip and discipline once we’re out of the store if necessary, but don’t feel I have many options while in the store.

    Love all the other tips, especially #24 doing weird things, and the digging one! Thankfully we have some bare spots under a tree that are great for digging, plus the sandbox.

  6. Number 5…my oldest boy is 12 and this weekend his dad initiated him into the world of lawn mowing. I was hesitant – our yard is a half acre and we have a regular old push mower. But HE LOVED IT. He felt so grown up. Every time I stepped outside he asked me how it looked. He was proud of himself and wanted me and his dad to be proud of him too!

  7. When their ideas and stories never seem to end and uhave 2949595 things to do, listen. Truly listen….nudity will happen. U will say countless times put on your clothes! Why are u only in your underware!?? These are just 2 more off the top of my head. 3 boys almost 7, 5, almost 3, and baby #4 (gender unknown) due end aug

  8. YES on #9! When I found pants on sale for my 6 and almost 5 year old to wear on Easter, I told the boys they are NOT allowed to wear them until Easter because I want there to be at least one Sunday they went to church with hole free pants.

    Also, a deep freezer is a must…the amount of food they can put away is rather astonishing, considering they’re not that old. I know it’s only going to increase.

  9. I love these!!! You truly know boyhood, because these are just so incredibly true. I have learned or am learning almost all of these. (We have four boys and one girl.)

    Oh, and you just reminded me that I need to go buy more bandaids!! 🙂


  10. Food is the way to their hearts! A special treat makes them feel so loved!

    These made me smile because they are so very true! Especially holes in the knees and digging! 🙂

    • This semester, my 9th-grade (14yo) son went with my husband each day to his office, and worked in a separate room from him. I oversaw the initial booklist, and gave my husband a full report/understanding of where he was, academically, in each subject area, and helped him think through what needed to happen from there. Obviously, he’s our oldest, so this has been a bit of a “guinea pig” semester for him and for us, but it’s worked out well, and we are already seeing some fruit from him being given a measure of independence, while still being under my husband’s authority, and coming to me more for advice/counsel, rather than daily oversight.

      READING, HISTORY, BIOGRAPHIES- from our personal library and local library. He keeps a reading log and occasionally gives a verbal report to Doug or I.
      MATH- He does math on a computer program, and can’t advance unless he gets an 80% or higher on each module. He has made progress this year, and actually, on his annual testing, the scores shows that he gained some ground this past 12 months. Yay!
      WRITING, ECONOMICS, POLITICS- He has done a good portion of writing on his personal economics-focused blog, so then he prints out those articles and we review/edit together, talking through writing mechanics, styling, etc.
      LOGIC- he’s had a logic curriculum to work through for the year.

      On top of these things, he uses YouTube’s educational videos for lectures and learning.

      This next year I believe we will be selecting a number of “The Great Courses” for science lectures (since that is a weak area for me). It’s not a strong area of interest for him, or else we would be pursuing more in-depth classes, with labs, etc., but for now, a basic familiarity with, say, mitochondria, DNA strands, genus/species, force, mass, scientific laws, etc. will suffice for his level of interest in scientific things.

      His educational bent is currently more toward economics, global politics, history of wars, political theory, so we’re trying to make the most of opportunities in that area, and give him just basic touchpoints and a foundational/conversational understanding of areas where his interests are not as strong.

      Does that give a more full picture of how we’ve approached this & how it’s looked?

  11. I love these tips so much…I am from a family of 4 boys, 1 girl, and am raising my first son with baby 2 on the way. To add to the comments above, I would also love to hear your thoughts on raising young women. Thanks for your diligence with writing and faithful commitment to truth.

  12. Loved this! Such true statements! Keeping him (3.5 year old boy) busy – I’ll share a few things I find useful. Writing letters or numbers down the left side of a dry erase board. He writes each letter across the whole board before moving down to the next letter, until finished. He helps me or my husband with dishes, loading things into the washer. When the dogs ring the bells on the back door, like clockwork he rushes to let them out/in! He brushes all 3 dogs regularly as well. He picks up dog toys, moves the computer chair so I can vacuum.

    He sprays a solution onto the floor, then I mop and he LOVES this! (It’s turned into a number game. I call out how many sprays and he sprays the floor solution accordingly) After he’s done eating he knows to put dishes by the sink. One of my dairy goats recently had triplets. One kid was smaller than the others, and he helps out with her inside the house. When I’m feeding the horses, goats, chickens, he opens/ closes gates, carries empty buckets back to the shop. He helps pick the horses hooves out, brush, etc them. The goats pick through the hay they like and there’s always some left over they don’t care for – this is put into a bucket and my son carries it to the horse pen and puts it in there to be frugal! They sure don’t see anything wrong with the hay and gobble it right up.

    Learning to do haircuts at home (which I do for myself, and the little one). The back scratching resonated with me (which ironically works with my husband, 🙂

    The main issue I’m having lately – he doesn’t speak to people outside our family. He’s only been around my husband and I. Both of our families live in different states, so he rarely gets to hang out with grandparents or cousins. He’s an only child and we don’t know anyone here (we moved here just before he was born, actually closing on the house 3 weeks before he was born! I don’t have any friends here, either.) When a lady at the register says hello he just stares at her. Sometimes people make comments about how little he talks and that bothers me, because he DOES talk A LOT, just not to them. They act like something is wrong with him, but perhaps they aren’t used to a child who rides in the cart nicely?

    Most children I see tend to beg for things, throw tantrums or hang out of the cart. He just knows better. I also feel that its rude to make those comments, because their job is to tend to customers – not evaluate my child. It’s unprofessional. He’s home schooled and I’ve seen nothing to suggest he’s having issues. He has 20 states memorized, saying “mommy is from Nebraska, there are wildfires in California, Iowa has piggy’s, Kentucky has horse races, we picked up my ponies from Idaho, and Florida is where cousin Tyson lives.” To name a few. He can count to 20, he knows the whole alphabet, very good with colors, and he writes his name by himself. He can spell mom, dad, sit, room, dog, cat, boy, house, and several others! The other day he was sitting on a flat cart loaded with goat grain and he pointed to the bag and said, “G-O-A-T spells GOAT!” Haha, it was so cute! That’s what is so frustrating, is that he isn’t behind on anything apart from addressing outsiders. But talking to others is just not his thing, YET.

    I do ask him to say hello and he COMPLETELY ignores me, how do I correct that? Should I refuse to move along until he does? I feel it’s a power play, like mom look I’m not listening, HA! He doesn’t throw tantrums, scream, yell or holler, his acting out is usually being passive. “Honey I want you to get your shoes and socks on.” He will be playing 10 min later with nothing on like he didn’t hear me, but when questioned he heard every word. Or I will hand him a bucket and tell him to bring the bucket to the shop door and then come to the back yard. When he’s still not back there with me, I check on him – he is playing by the shop door….that is how he is defiant. Any tips?? What type of consequence would you suggest?

    Lately he’s been passively not listening as mentioned. At first I thought he didn’t hear me, but then I began asking “what did mommy say?” 95% of the time he knew what I asked of him, but chose not to do it, so a consequence was actually due! It’s one thing if he truly didn’t know, but it’s another – finding this out lately – that he indeed know what was asked. Once he was riding his bike on the driveway. I called him to the house – he looked directly at me and began starting for the front door where I was – so I went inside the house to take my boots off. A min went by as I scanned the walkway but he didn’t appear. He should have been there by then, so I went back outside and he was all the way by the horse pen riding his bike. I know he heard me, but again, chose to ignore. That is what his power plays look like. Or asking him to write letters on the dry erase board, come to find out he was just sitting there after he finished the A’s, and neglected to finish practicing the other 5 letters.

    The other day in the checkout line the lady was SO NICE!! She said hello. No response. She then asked if he wanted a sticker, presenting him with a booklet, and again, he just stared at her. I said, Wyatt do you want a sticker? No response. During the summer he was going to daycare once a week so I could kayak the river (something he cannot do yet) or I’d take my horse out. The teachers there would do this thing like, honey, do you want a sticker? No? (answering for him) Do you want a truck? No? (The whole time he isn’t answering them, but just SHOWING disinterest making them ask more and more questions he still isn’t answering) And they would continue until he merely showed interest and they’d give him what he got excited about (and didn’t ask for verbally.)

    I believe this is where that behavior came from. They actually called a meeting with my husband and I explaining concerns about this, and I remember seeing firsthand how they handled him. “He isn’t made to answer anything, that’s why he doesn’t.” The lady said “We just don’t like pressuring them to talk.” “That is exactly why he DOESN’T. He talks to us just fine, but we expect him to answer us and don’t move onto another question until he *has* indeed answered us.” I do require him to answer me, (which he does, or mumbles if he’s mad about something and I correct that as well) and my husband has been doing this too. This is something I really need to work with him on!

    Any tips would be SUPER helpful and much appreciated!! (Sorry this was so long) Since becoming a mother I’ve been away from all my family and friends, it’s been really hard not being about to talk about how they handle things and what works for them. My mom also passed away 2 years ago tomorrow, so I haven’t had my mom around to express these things since he was 18 months old. I miss hearing her thoughts greatly. Your blog is really helpful.

    • Hi Jesse! So sorry to hear about your losing your mom, that would be so hard! I had a couple tips to share, not sure if you’ve tried any of these already, but maybe it would be somewhere to start. You could look into story hour at your local library, or maybe try to find a MOPS group in your area? It might be good for you and your son to have a bigger network to interact with. Maybe try taking a small treat or something to a neighbor with similarly aged kids, or even an older mother to see about possibly finding a mentor? It might be a good way to break the ice & possibly start a relationship with someone in your area. One set of my nieces and nephews are as you describe your son, very smart & talk to their own circle of family just fine, but super shy around anyone else, including us since we don’t seem them except maybe once a month, and now that they attend school they have had similar issues with their teachers in school. It has gotten better over time, but I know what you mean. Kids are all different too, some just don’t like or need to talk to strangers, but for yourself, if you are missing that connection with friends and family, maybe some of these ideas will help you expand your network! It can be hard, but maybe you just haven’t found your group in your new location yet! Best wishes!

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